In my recent blog post, Haa K̲usteeyí, I shared a personal perspective on Tlingit belief in regard to the nature of time, and how every Tlingit life is intertwined in a continuum. In that post I suggested that readers give some continued thought on the nature of Haa K̲usteeyí.
I took my own advice. I continued to think on Haa K̲usteeyí and its implications.
Recently I observed two young men, both “¼ Tlingit”, discussing how they felt Tlingit, felt Tlingit blood in their veins, only to have had their statement disregarded by other Tlingit. Their sense of being Tlingit was disregarded because of their relatively light skin or eye color. As a half-breed (a label I was familiar with when I was younger) I find myself in a wonderful position to have some measure of empathy for how they feel.
Consider how insignificant the exact blood quantum of an individual is when they belong to a continuum that reaches back 10,000 years and extends far into the future. Haa K̲usteeyí. Tlingit is Tlingit. Modifiers are not needed.
I think of a 60 year old Tlingit man I admire greatly. He stated that if his entire body represented all of the knowledge that a Tlingit man should have, his own slice of this knowledge would fit under a single fingernail. Although he is a powerful and brilliant man, carries Tlingit names of high esteem from his clan, speaks Tlingit and knows his clan’s songs, he is entirely humble. He feels himself a part of Haa K̲usteeyí, and this truth strips him of any possibility of being arrogant. As a Tlingit gentleman, he is humble.
Then I read a response on social media by a Tlingit man who loudly proclaims how important he is, how knowledgeable and traditional he is, and then he challenges a Tlingit living outside of Haa Aani, stating that since she lives outside of the Tlingit homeland her concerns were invalid and unworthy of consideration. As a 3rd party to that discussion, all I can do is pray that he truly humble himself to the fact that there is no such thing as a man more important than Haa K̲usteeyí.
Most of my thoughts on philosophy or spirituality fail to lead to conclusions, and it’s true here. What I am left with are things that I will personally be mindful of;
-I must be mindful that I treat every Tlingit with the same respect, regardless of their level of cultural knowledge or that peculiar Western concept “Blood Quantum” or “Degree of Native Blood”.
-All of my life I have heard declarative statements that begin with “Well I’m 100% Tlingit, and…” It is the clear that because their blood quantum is higher than mine they were asserting that they were speaking from an unassailable position of authority. I will be mindful of how it felt to me to be so casually disregarded due to being “less Tlingit”, and that I must NEVER make anyone feel like that.
Surly there is someone out there who is “1/16th Tlingit” who feels his or her blood calling to them, even though there is little of the Tlingit physical archetype in their appearance. Inside, they feel their Tlingit soul. They feel Haa K̲usteeyí.
I think that the Tlingit are feeling an increased pull back to their culture. I know a fraction of what my 60 year old friend knows, but I will seek knowledge. More importantly, I will share what I know. Let me be a bridge rather than a road block.